Science, Health & Tech

We cover these essential linchpins of the Pittsburgh regional economy, and how they impact residents' personal health and employment. 

Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

After a 7.1 magnitude earthquake devastated Mexico City last week, rescue teams from several countries assisted Mexico in search-and-and rescue efforts. They were joined by a 3-foot-long, 2-inch-wide reptilian robot from Carnegie Mellon University.

James Hausman / South Fayette School District

For many Americans struggling with opioid addiction, the problem starts with the abuse of a prescription.

To help tackle this issue, a group of local high school students created a new device.

Most prescriptions come in the familiar, orange canisters. Unfortunately, these are flawed: patients can take too many pills, too frequently and other people can get into the containers very easily.

The Office of Governor Tom Wolf / flickr

The Pittsburgh-based Magee-Womens Research Institute is planning to offer a $1 million prize for innovative research into women's health when it holds its inaugural summit next October at the city's David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Toby Talbot / AP

A southeastern Pennsylvania county sued 11 pharmaceutical companies Thursday for marketing tactics that county officials say misrepresent the dangers of long-term opioid usage while a national overdose crisis continues to kill tens of thousands of people annually.

Delaware County alleged in its complaint that the companies and three consulting physicians engaged in promotional campaigns that encouraged prolonged and widespread use of their powerful painkillers, despite knowing that in doing so consumers risked damaging health effects and addiction.

Banerjee Lab / University of Pittsburgh

For more than one million Americans with Type 1 Diabetes, managing the condition involves daily shots of insulin and closely watching their diets.

Jake Savitz / 90.5 WESA

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released its first ever guidelines on minors getting tattoos and piercings, recommending teens and their parents research possible heath effects of body modification before facing the needle.

Leftover Painkillers Driving Opioid Crisis, Penn Researcher Says

Sep 18, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania says one of the big narratives explaining the onset of  the opioid crisis is wrong. 

Peggy Compton, a professor at Penn's School of Nursing, said the public often misunderstands the role opioid prescriptions have played in the crisis. The epidemic wasn't caused by people taking pills prescribed by their doctor to treat pain, she said. That idea, she said during a discussion among pain researchers at Penn, is a "myth."

"Simply by giving prescribed opioids to patients with pain, we are not creating addicts," Compton said Friday.

Jacob Sippel / U.S. Navy / Creative Commons

A survey of 1,000 Pennsylvania nurses has revealed many feel they're overworked and spend less time doing patient care and more time on paperwork.

The report, released by advocacy group Nurses of Pennsylvania, reveals common complaints within the profession. It found 94 percent of nurses say their place of work does not have enough nursing staff, and 87 percent believe staffing levels affecting patient care are getting worse.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The number of people without health insurance in Pennsylvania continues to decline, reaching what Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's office says is the lowest uninsured rate on record.

U.S. Census Bureau data released this week shows Pennsylvania's 2016 uninsured rate at 5.6 percent, tied for the 12th lowest rate in the nation.

That's down from 9.7 percent in 2013 and 6.4 percent in 2015. The national uninsured rate was 8.6 percent last year.

The Census Bureau estimates 700,000 Pennsylvanians lacked health insurance last year, about 500,000 fewer than in 2013.

Michigan State University

The Heinz Family Foundation has announced the winners of this year’s Heinz Awards, which honor people who are breaking barriers in their fields and making a global impact.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

The maker space TechShop Pittsburgh is scheduled to close at the end of the month, but a few members and staff are hoping to keep it alive under a new name.

Jeff White / AP

In the spacious corridor of a trendy co-working space on Pittsburgh’s North Side, Michael Shenck runs through a list of all the ways his real estate startup, Ikos, uses the internet each day.

Lotzman Katzman / Flickr

High rates of asthma in Allegheny County are keeping kids out of schools and impacting learning, according to research by a local pediatrician. Pittsburgh has one of the highest rates of air pollution in the country, one of the strongest factors for childhood asthma.

The study by Deborah Gentile reveals more than 22 percent of children in some Pittsburgh schools have asthma, much higher than the national average of just more than 10 percent. Gentile says this high rate of childhood asthma is alarming.

Hamza Butt / Flickr

Sepsis is the leading cause of hospital deaths in the country, killing 250,000 Americans each year. The bacterial infection, colloquially known as "blood poisoning," can be caused by contamination in a hospital setting, and in deadly situations results in organ failure.

Sara Neff / Flickr

A successful opioid addiction program for pregnant women at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh is expanding to UPMC Hamot in Erie.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

People living with HIV are living longer lives, thanks to medical advancements and wider availability of antiretroviral drugs. This means age-related diseases are now manifesting in these patients with previously unknown effects.

University of Pittsburgh researcher Ivona Pandrea said people living with HIV are twice as likely to develop heart disease, due to a protein that triggers blood clotting and inflammation even after the HIV is treated.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Back to school clothes shopping is a rite of passage for most students, but it can be tough for kids with developmental disabilities. The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh and American Eagle Outfitters are working on a potential solution that would let students with special needs shop remotely.

New Report Recommends Ways To Prevent And Respond To Childhood Lead Exposure

Sep 5, 2017
Marcus Charleston / 90.5 WESA

The water and lead crisis in Flint Michigan and parts of Pennsylvania has shone a national spotlight on he problem of childhood lead exposure.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Residents of Millvale are no longer under a flush and boil water advisory. Officials with Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) announced Sunday night that the Department of Environmental Protection had approved lifting the advisory.

Tony Talbot / AP

One of the root causes of opioid addiction is over-prescription of addictive drugs.

A major reason it occurs is the practice of doctor shopping — when people visit five or more prescribers in hopes of getting drugs. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

A Department of Health report out this week has shown that only 28 percent of Pennsylvania children undergo recommended lead testing.

Colt Group / Flicker

 

In mid-September, the Pittsburgh Technology Council will take a delegation of Pittsburghers across the Atlantic to Bilbao, Spain for a five-day trip. The goal of the visit is to take a leaf out of our Spanish sister-city’s book.

Brian Kennedy, senior vice president for government relations and operations at the council, stressed that if Pittsburgh wants to keep bringing in talent to fill high-tech jobs, the city needs to be a place that’s both exciting to live in and easy to get around in.

 

Bigstock / via WHYY

Teenagers are often thought of as irresponsible — or even reckless. But a group of local researchers recently came to a different conclusion about what's going on in the teenage brain.

Stereotypes about young people and their brains abound, and scientists have not been immune to those ideas, said Dan Romer, research director at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center.

First, it was raging hormones that explained those wacky teens. Then, Romer said, it was the fact that the prefrontal cortex doesn't fully develop until adulthood.

Volmar Beche / flickr

An elderly woman in Pittsburgh’s East End has contracted West Nile Virus, the first reported case in Allegheny County since 2015.

Allegheny County Health Department officials said, while the disease can’t be spread through human contact, infected mosquito activity is higher this summer than in the previous six years.

Ryan Melaugh / Flickr

A new analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this month shows the suicide rate among females aged 15 to 19 hit a 40-year high in 2015.

The new data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics finds suicide rates doubled for females and rose by more than 30 percent for boys in the same age group between 2007 and 2015. 

Bill Sikes / AP

Two legal organizations say health insurer Aetna revealed the HIV status of patients in several states by mailing envelopes with a large, clear window that showed information on purchasing HIV prescriptions.

The Legal Action Center and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania say some patients' relatives and neighbors learned of their HIV status as a result.

Aetna says that "this type of mistake is unacceptable" and that the company is reviewing processes to ensure it never happens again.

frankieleon / Flickr

A new University of Pittsburgh-led study reveals Pennsylvania Medicaid enrollees prescribed an opioid are still highly likely to continue that prescription after an overdose from a legal opioid or heroin. 

Carnegie Mellon University / YouTube

 

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are using the centuries-old concept of a telescope to develop new structures that could increase robots' flexibility and versatility in the future.

 

A telescoping structure is made of nested pieces which slide in and out of one another to different lengths. A classic, if outdated, example would be a pirate or sailor’s retractable telescope. Today, some ladders, umbrellas and tentpoles also use this technology.

Not coincidentally, these applications all share a common trait.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Surrounded by sea of scissors, masking tape and aluminum foil, dozens of families gathered at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh to build pinhole projectors out of paper towel tubes, long rectangular cardboard boxes and cereal boxes.

Martial Trezzini / AP/Keystone

Analogies are a common problem solving method in research. For example, the Wright Brothers used their knowledge of how balance and weight affect a bicycle to create the first airplane. Velcro was invented when a Swiss engineer took a closer took at the burrs that stuck to his dog's fur.

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